Assistive Technology

Assistive technology lies at the heart of people living with disability. It makes life safer, easier and richer.

People living with disabilities are five times more likely to be poor than people without disabilities. In contrast, assistive technology can give people new abilities that help them maintain their independence, employment and social interaction. It is quickly becoming an important part of their everyday lives.

The essence of assistive technology is in its name: technology that assists. This assistance comes in many forms to help people overcome the barriers they may face to accomplish their own life goals and be as productive as their abilities allow. Assistive technology and the professionals who often deliver it play a vital role in the lives of people with disabilities.

How do You Define Assistive Technology?

Assistive Technology (AT) is technology, products and systems that are used to increase or maintain the functional capabilities of persons with disabilities. AT promotes inclusion in society for people with disabilities through increased opportunities, equality, and independence. Assistive Technology (AT) enables people with developmental disabilities to enrich their lives by participating more fully in community life.

Without assistive technology, a person living with a disability is unable to reach their fullest potential. However, with the right technologies people living with a disability can be anything they want to be – including teachers, doctors, engineers and more.

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Where is Assistive Technology Used?

Assistive Technology (AT) is used in the home, school, and workplace to increase or maintain an individual’s level of function within the intended environment. It is sometimes referred to as “adaptive equipment” but is a broader term that includes both medical devices and non-medical technological devices used to increase or maintain a person’s independence.

Assistive technology encompasses many components—from software, computers, and digital technologies to physical items such as wheelchairs or eyeglasses. It can be found at home, school, work settings, healthcare positions for patients and clients, and other places such as libraries and gaming venues.

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What are Examples of Assistive Technology in the Classroom?

It is vital to use assistive technology as part of the classroom. For instance, if you have a kid who has a visual impairment, they need to read out loud for their tests, so they could use things like voice recognition software or screen reader software.

If used properly, assistive technology can be a valuable tool for students with disabilities as well as their nondisabled peers. Students learn using many modalities – visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and tactile. Below are a few examples of assistive technology in the classroom setting.

Electronic Worksheets

eWorksheets are a powerful tool for both traditional and inclusive learning environments. Research into assistive learning continues to grow, as does the body of research showing that electronic worksheets can be a powerful teaching technique and have many positive impacts.

The versatility of customisable electronic worksheets makes it a useful tool for all kinds of students. It is ideal for visual learners with RDS (right to left) reading issues.

Talking Calculators

Talking calculators can help students with learning disabilities to learn math. A talking calculator is any calculator which can speak the numbers as they are entered. Unlike a voice output device, the user still has to read the numbers to be entered. A few people with severe physical disabilities have used speech recognition software and a voice output device together to enter numbers into their calculator.

This means that the person with severe physical disabilities would say each number out loud to be spoken by the voice output device, and then this narration would be translated into input data by the speech recognition software.

Phonetic Spelling Software

Phonetics is the study of speech sounds, and a software program that phonetically spells words is a great tool for anyone who wants to learn how to spell correctly. A software programme that phonetically spells words can help students with dyslexia or foreign-language learners learn to spell words while practising the sounds they make. For example, looking up the word “cat” in an English dictionary, you would never guess that the word began as cæt. The phonetic spelling of “cat” is [kæt].

Variable Speed Recorders

Variable speed recorders are affordable assistive technology solutions that help with the recording and playback of communication materials in a variety of settings.

Designed for use as educational and training tools, variable speed recorders can also be used to assist with communication for students, clients, family members and other people involved in the lives of individuals who have difficulty communicating effectively.

Videotaped Social Skills

In the simplest terms, taped social skills are simulations of real-world interactions in which you ask people who stutter to record their speech on a video camera. These recorded clips can be played back to them during feedback sessions, but more importantly, they can be replayed over and over to give individuals the experience of fluent speech outside of the real world.

Visual Search Engines

A visual search engine is a type of search engine that utilises image processing algorithms to find visually similar or relevant images in order to help users finish their searches quicker.

A visual search engine makes it easier for people with vision loss to access information and products available online. When using a visual search engine, website users can look through pictures of item details to find their desired product.

Reading Pens

A reading pen is a multi-functional device used to help individuals with a variety of reading-related disabilities improve their comprehension, fluency and accuracy. This device uses red LED lights that line the pages of text and aid the eye in focusing on the printed word better by creating patterns with an adjustable speed of movement.

This speeds up recognition and improves accuracy so that wearers can focus on comprehending what they are reading rather than focusing on decoding words.

Voice Recognition

Voice recognition is a type of input technology that allows for hands-free use of your computer, tablet or mobile device. Some voice recognition programs work just by talking to the device, while others require the user to press a button on the screen to activate speech recognition.

It can be used by people who are unable to use their hands and arms or legs, as well as by those who find it easier, quicker, more reliable and accurate.

Text to Speech

A new popular assisted learning device that has proven to be effective in assisting some users is Text-to-Speech (TTS). When learning and practising complex skills such as language, an individual needs to have a way of comprehending what he/she says and is doing.

Text to Speech is software that takes text and converts it into an audio file. Text to speech allows a person to hear what they are reading, provides an alternative for those who cannot see, and can provide readouts of numbers, codes, etc.

Why Do Students Need Assistive Technology?

Every student has different needs. But we all have the same goal: to reach our full learning potential. Today, assistive technology can help with reading, writing, or physical disabilities. It can improve speed and accuracy of typing, increase access to classrooms and make homework easier to complete at home.

The fact is, today’s students are an incredibly diverse group with a variety of learning needs, including those who need technology to compensate for disabilities of all kinds. Students who use assistive technology can succeed in school and life in ways they couldn’t imagine otherwise. They will see their hopes and dreams realized instead of overlooked or extinguished by narrow conceptions of ability. They can be the architects of their own futures.

When Should Assistive Technology be Introduced?

It’s never too early or too late for Assistive Technology. In fact, the earlier assistive technology is used and introduced, the higher the likelihood a child will have positive experience with using technology in their learning environment. This can lead to long term positive attitude towards technology.

It is important to acknowledge that Assistive Technology should not be used to make improvements on the individual student who has a disability. Rather, it needs to be used for the specific accommodation of the disability. Otherwise, they will potentially become more disabled as a result. The focus is on helping students with disabilities achieve equality in the classroom and enabling equal access to the instructional materials and to their peers.

Conclusion

Assistive technology has been proven to be the single most effective technology in supporting independent living. Above all, assistive technology eliminates barriers and enhances independence by enabling a person with a disability to obtain the information they need, communicate their needs with others, perform tasks that previously were impossible or inefficient, and participate in social interactions on an equal basis.

It truly is amazing how much technology can enhance our lives. It’s hard to even imagine a life without it, which is why it’s so important that it works properly and reliably. Today’s Assistive Technology can do more than you think, just like tomorrow’s Assistive Technology will do even more.

FAQs About Assistive Technology

How do you know if a student needs assistive technology?

It’s not always easy to tell. Clear communication is the key, which is why students need assistive technology that works with their existing tech and helps them communicate more clearly. Most schools offer no-cost, confidential assessments to determine whether students qualify for assistive technology devices. School personnel and parents can work together to make informed decisions about providing AT for students with disabilities.

Look for difficulties in these five areas: Focus, Attention, Organisation, Communication, and Social Interactions. If a student is experiencing difficulty in any of these areas, they may need an assistive device.

What is Assistive Technology for Dyslexia?
Assistive Technology or AT is often misunderstood to mean special gadgets, apps and software. But assistive technology for dyslexia is far more. It’s the best way to support children and adults affected by dyslexia at all stages of their learning journey, be it at home, school or work.

Empowering people to excel through assistive technology requires a planned approach that includes strategies for access to learning, instructions on how best to interact with the environment and tools to support learning.

Is virtual reality an assistive technology?
Absolutely. VR offers individuals with physical and cognitive impairments the opportunity to experience life to its fullest. Whether they are creating, performing or witnessing, virtual reality is changing the way people interact and experience the world, both imagined and real.
What is high assistive technology?
High assistive technology is an umbrella term for augmentative and alternative communication that has an impact on high or low functioning individuals’ ability to communicate.
Who is eligible for Assistive Technology?
Those who are eligible for AT services include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Individuals with severe physical disabilities who need adaptive aids, equipment or home modification to live in less restrictive or more integrated surroundings.
  • Individuals with developmental disabilities who may need adaptive aids, equipment or environmental modifications.
  • Individuals with cognitive impairments (mental retardation), who may need adaptive aid, equipment and/or environmental modifications.
What is assistive technology software?
Assistive Technology Software is special software that helps people with disabilities use a computer or other technology. Assistive technology software can help people who are blind, deaf, physically disabled or have learning disabilities to do things like writing emails.
Is a pencil grip assistive technology?
A pencil grip is an assistive technology used to increase the ability of a person to hold and use a writing instrument. It can be a slip-on sleeve for a pen or pencil or be an attachment to a keyboard. It can also be an integral part of the device.
Are glasses assistive technology?
Yes, glasses are assistive technology. Assistive technology is any item or piece of equipment that helps a person maintain or improve their health, independence or quality of life – which could, in theory, include glasses.
What are assistive devices?
Assistive devices are specialised equipment that ‘assist’ a person with a disability in doing something they could not usually do. These are practical tools that bring freedom, independence and realization of full potential to individuals with disabilities and their families.